Even if I'm used to write in English, I'm not a native and have never played a tabletop RPG other than in French. If some terms feel off, please let me know with a comment.
Sector 5 is a game for 3 to 7 players (including 1 Game Master). Beyond that, any tabletop RPG end up being a mess anyway.
What is a tabletop Role Playing Game (RPG)? Basically a collaborative and improvised story limited only by our imagination, dice randomness dictating actions outcome. It gathers several players around a table (and usually several drinks too), each of whom will contribute to the narrative, governed by a rulebook and a Game Master (GM). With elaborate descriptions, the GM guides their adventurers through the red thread of the story he imagined, and embodies the non-player characters (NPC).
Each player performs a character in that story, and their goal is to survive and solve the scenario to earn rewards, which increase their abilities in some way. They will take turn in describing the actions they undertake to make the story move forward. The more accurate the description–referring to the environment, events history, emotions and character's personality–the more engaging it ends up being for the other players, sparking further their imagination.
In mainstream RPGs, rules fill many books (or documents for the shortest), games last ages, require resolute stamina, and scenarios need some serious nerve to prepare, usually breaking down into countless sessions. Put simply, it's a huge challenge even for the aficionados.
Sector 5 therefore ambitions to make tabletop RPGs more approachable, within a dystopian sci-fi universe. Cards help contextualizing specific rules, naturally contribute to the narrative, create synergy and engage players more easily than pen and paper. In the end, that means more playful, less demanding, shorter sessions, and just as creative!
- [GM] The drugstore suddenly becomes dark. You were following each other, and Jason discerns an armed guy behind the shelves thanks to his infra-red contact lenses.
- [Jason] I quietly reach to Nissa, pressing my hand over her shoulder to make her crouch, and draw my gun.
- [Nissa] Roger, I do the same with Marvin behind me.
- [Marvin] I can't see shit but I throw a frag grenade across the store.
- [GM] Well that seems a tad unmindful. Do a Fortune test so we see if you don't accidentally blow up your own pals.
To be read or interpreted by the GM to each player new to Sector 5.
The best of us have left Earth long ago, leaving behind them an overpopulated planet and basically handing it over to, uh..., let's say the less good of us. A bit like today, except that most of the scientists, engineers, and visionaries just went exploring the solar system without looking back. In this generalized dystopian turmoil stands a much more disturbing chaos, in the heart of Sector 5. That's the poorest district of Gigashi, the first merger of neighboring mega-cities now counting nearly 400 million inhabitants. An objectionable kind of order is maintained by agreements between mob associations, while local authorities, left in the lurch, prefer to play cards and sign papers than to die excruciatingly tortured. This we can understand. But, despite the risks, a small group of ex-inspectors secretly tries to dismantle these networks to prevent the gangrene from spreading. Probably by conviction, a forgotten concept from the 2000s, so we would rather say that it's out of recklessness.
Each one of you plays an inspector of this desperate brigade, driven by your reasons that reason ignores. You meet frequently in a small windowless room behind a tattoo shop owned by Tarek, a discreet–but alive–rare optimist, attempting to gather intel about potential targets to plan interventions as best as you can, with whatever means at hand.
- 120 cards: 8 Classes, 12 Enhancements, 54 Gears, 10 Opponents, 36 Upgrades.
- 6 Location boards.
- 1 GM screen with a scenario generator.
- At least 1 4-sided dice, 1 6-sided dice, 1 20-sided dice.
- A few pens and paper to note down names, hit points (HP), made up gears and modifiers.
- Strength: make use of physical strength.
- Dexterity: being accurate, quiet or quick.
- Technology: use or repair electronic devices.
- Charisma: persuade or fool someone.
- Fortune: as a last resort.
1. How to play
The GM prepares the outlines of their story by defining steps or checkpoints, key NPCs, opponents, traps and turnarounds, tweaking difficulty based on the characters level and players' experience with RPGs. We advise starting by picking a provided location, mapped on a board. Then refer to the provided scenario screen to assist the creation of the story: randomly pick objectives and events by rolling the dice and come up with a coherent (or absurd, your choice) story to connect the dots.
For the more fanatics, it's obviously possible to craft a completely custom scenario and explore the universe, imagining new locations, opponents and even gears, or simply recycle a provided location with a homemade scenario. It's still recommended to limit sessions to a single location, even if that means dividing it into several chapters, just to keep a decent pace of rewards and recovery and preserve players engagement.
At the end of each mission, we assume characters return to their HQ to recover all their HPs, lose their temporary modifiers, charge and repair their equipment.
For their first session, players have to create a character that they will play until death occurs. They pick a name for their character, which the GM will try to respect, and make up a short background story that led them to join the cause.
The players each roll a 20-sided dice, whoever gets the lowest score starts, then in turn clockwise, each player chooses a Class card. Then, still in turn, each player picks a Enhancement card, until each has two different. Players are obviously encouraged to work together to wisely distribute their strengths.
In the event of a tragic end, the said player loses all their cards and creates a new character, with a new name and background. They chooses a new Class or keeps their own, and two different Enhancement cards. Unless otherwise indicated by the GM, they joins back the adventure when the other characters return to the HQ (so most of the time, at the next session).
The sum of gear bulk values can not exceed a character's number of slots. We keep a low profile in this crazy world to blend in, so a character can't carry an infinite number of gears, and can not carry heavy weapons out in the street.
The GM provides each new character with a Knife, a Gun, and an UCD.
The role-playing game is a free format where players will naturally discuss to coordinate themselves, solve puzzles and explore forward the story. But when it comes to performing actions, that will happen in turn clockwise, ending with the GM (then playing the actions of the NPCs). A game turn is therefore over when all the characters have performed their action.
The GM should remain realistic about the timing of the actions. Attempting to bypass an enemy in the middle of a fight will necessarily cost the player several turns, because during this time their opponent and teammates will have time to fire the gun several times, or even do a full melee combat. The GM alone decides how many turns an action will take, depending on the pace of events, and the ambition of the action described.
Dice rolls are written
N stands for the number of dice to roll,
X their number of sides, and
M the modifier:
1d20 means you roll one 20-sided dice, and
2d6-2 two 6-sided dice, then subtracting 2 to the score.
We call a dice roll a "test". Tests are always played with
1d20, and we call "success value" the maximum value (included) to obtain to succeed a test. By default, the success value is set to
10. Thus any action, attack (att.) or defense (def.) is quite difficult as the player needs to score
10 or less to succeed the test (fifty-fifty chance). In this rulebook we write
7/10+2 to describe a past test: the score was
7 on a success value of
10 with a bonus of
The GM chooses which ability(ies) an action calls for, then asks the player to perform one test per ability involved. But no need to roll a dice when you scratch your nose, unless you try to do that with a jigsaw. The Fortune ability enables the GM to offer a second attempt when things get bad, or resolve a wacky action that doesn't fit any other category.
A score of
1 on a test means critical success, amplifying the action. For example the damage is automatically at the maximum, or the bullet crosses and hits a second opponent, or the character earns a new object or bonus. A
20 is, on the other hand, a critical failure, which will negatively affect the character: she breaks her weapon, her arm, loses her equipment, her bonuses, or injures a teammate. In both cases, the consequence of a critical roll is decided by the GM, who will skillfully use their imagination to rebalance the game and turn it into a coherent storytelling piece.
Whoever narratively initiates the fight gets to start. If the situation is ambiguous (opponents are all facing each others with the intent to attack), then each character involved rolls
1d20 and the smallest score obtains the initiative and starts the fight. Turns then run as usual respecting the clockwise standard.
A turn therefore includes one action and one defense (or parry) per character involved. The action can be to attack, move a short distance, use a gear, or even something like tinkering even if it's not an appropriate time. Any character who's targeted by a melee attack can choose to defend. Be careful though, they can only parry one attack per game turn, but has to choose at the time of each attack whether he defends it or if he prefers to try his luck on the next one. Attacking with your bare hands does
A shot from a firearm cannot be parried: it is impossible to dodge a bullet. Thus the success of an attack depends only on who wields the firearm, and on any gear that could offer protection to the target. By default we shoot in the chest (increases probabilities to hit). Depending on the attack score, the GM chooses which part of the body is hit (
1 is a head shot and
10 hits the foot for example). If the player announces that they're aiming for a specific area before rolling the dice, then they performs a Dexterity test before attacking.
- Marvin, knife in hand, jumps on the guard, but he dodges. [tests :
8/10+2in attack, but
- Jason seeing the two side by side, takes a deep breath, aims, and shoots. He hits the guard on the left shoulder, who takes a step back, stunned. [test:
7/10-2in attack (
- The guard retaliates on Marvin, who had lost balance, and stabs him in the belly fat. Marvin falls to the ground and loses 2HP. [tests:
3/10in attack (
- Nissa, now having a clear line of sight, fires her gun. Hit in the head, the guard collapses next to Marvin, horrified by the brain bits leaking on the ground. [tests:
1.6. Rewards and penalties
To spice things up and remain realistic, the GM has the ability to apply temporary or permanent modifiers to the characters or objects, which owner ought to note down. A player who has his strong hand index finger crushed will have a much harder time firing a gun.
During a test, bonuses increase the success value (the highest the easiest), and conversely, the penalties decrease it. If a player has a bonus of
2 and scores
11, the test succeeds because a score of
12 or less was needed. As for damages rolls, bonuses add up to the dice score and penalties are subtracted from it.
The GM can make players draw Gear cards, with or without a Fortune test, after a fight, a search or any other narrative event. It's also possible for a gear without card to be noted down with any rule the GM wishes to attach to it. For example, a GM can have a player finding a hammer, note it down with
1d4+1 melee damage rule, taking 1 slot.
When a mission or any relevant or impressive action succeeds, the GM gives away Upgrade cards to deserving players. These cards have no value and can not be exchanged between players. The GM can also take back an Upgrade card in case of toxic behavior or particularly awkward outcome to sanction a player.
2. Additional notes
The base rules are quite limited to guarantee a quick start in the game. The specific rules are written on the cards so there is no need to know them beforehand nor to learn them. We assume that a little common sense and arbitrary dice rolls makes things way easier than mainstream RPGs for the same result. Yet some points deserve some clarification.
The GM always and unquestionably has the last word. He can at any time decide to ignore or modify the base rules, or those written on the cards, in order to balance or stick to the narrative. However, be careful not to abuse it, otherwise the players will start doing stupid things to show their discontent. And they would be right.
For the sake of simplicity, we do not count the ammunition on the firearms, because the missions are short and we can imagine that we carry a few magazines in the jacket pockets. There is also no money in Sector 5, because in this chaos, money is not trusted (except to buy a sandwich, but we are above that). Resources are scarce, so valuables can be either found, earned, or traded.
Finally, Gear wear is also not subject to rules, but the GM may decide to put any damaged gear out of play for more realism. In this case, the said card is discarded and reshuffled with the Gear deck, or if suitable, is turned face down until being repaired either with a Technology test, or by returning to the HQ (without test).
When the players disagree, the best is to settle this with dice. Those concerned roll
1d20 and the final decision goes to the one with the lowest score.
To avoid abusing his full power when he is faulted (during an inconsistency for example), the GM can also impose an arbitrary success value and have a player roll the dice.
Players are strongly encouraged to imagine what they want to better embody their character. Whether it is their personality or ambitions, their past or their OCDs, they are free to ruin the game by playing a sexist hick who thinks the Earth is flat, or by wanting to domesticate a wild rat. The GM is only the keeper of the overall consistency, but the players are the real protagonists of this story.
We're all here to spend a good time, the substance must remain consistent to keep everyone's attention, but the form can remain light or even stupid. The absurd, however, is only well dosed when it is contextual: a retard who gets a third-degree burn by rolling a critic to fix a light bulb will be a lot more fun than a player who beats up NPCs for no reason.
Finally, for more immersion, try as much as possible not to give the details of the calculations and announce the scores out loud, but rather to interpret the results to bring the story to life. "The attack succeeds with an 8 after the penalty of 2. Hugo, you take 4 damage and get stunned, you pass the next turn." is admittedly much less engaging than "In his fall, the guard draws his gun and fires. The bullet goes through Marvin's thigh who collapses. The shock is brutal, you briefly lose consciousness, as well as 4HP.".